Memorability of Enhanced Informational Graphics: The effects of design relevance and chart type on recall

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Alyssa Peña
Eric Ragan
Lane Harrison


Design enhancements are often added to charts, signage, and infographics to help garner attention or communicate a message. Though it is argued that they may also detract user’s focus on the underlying information, prior studies have contributed evidence that visual design enhancements and even simple decorations can improve memory of visual displays. However, there is limited empirical knowledge about how the type of aesthetic enhancements in?uences memory, and what informational and data elements are remembered from a visualization. We conducted a user study testing chart types (line, pie, and bar), the presence of color, and whether added enhancements were contextually related to the data topic presented in each chart. We found that enhancements relevant to the data helped in the recall of title and thematic elements, but enhancements did not signi?cantly affect recall of speci?c data values. This suggests that using relevant enhancements can have a positive effect on memorability of some chart content, but only if the design styles are chosen well to match the information topic. Recall of chart topics for unrelated embellishments was worse than plain, un-enhanced charts, which suggests that visual enhancement can distract or interfere with memorability if the viewer does not understand a meaningful connection between informational topic and design modi?cations.

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